Preserving nature, helping veterans
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Join the Forest Preserve District of Kane County at Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia, Saturday, Dec. 8, for a day of conservation, recreation and patriotism.
Volunteers and veterans are needed to support the work of the Veterans Conservation Corps of Chicagoland. Help cut brush during this restoration workday from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 8. They will honor the memory of the late Dick Young, a World War II Marine Corps veteran, longtime conservationist, and the man for whom the Kane County forest preserve as well as one in Kendall County are named. Participating veterans will receive a free sweatshirt.
No experience is necessary and all are welcome. The event wraps up with a complimentary barbecue at the preserve. To RSVP or get more information on the Veterans Conservation Corps of Chicagoland, call (630) 649-1149.
Dick Young Forest Preserve is at 39W115 Main St., Batavia. Parking is also available at the Nelson Lake Road side of the preserve; however, the event will take place on the northwest side of the preserve.
The Veterans Conservation Corps of Chicagoland was established this year by Restoration Ecologist Ben Haberthur of the Forest Preserve District. Haberthur, also a Marine, launched the program after receiving a $10,000 TogetherGreen fellowship grant. TogetherGreen is a conservation initiative of the National Audubon Society and Toyota. Each year, the group selects 40 high-potential, local leaders to receive a $10,000 conservation grant. Haberthur was one of four award recipients from Illinois this year.
Haberthur's project aims to help heal war wounds through conservation action.
"My resolve to protect and restore our American ecosystems was really solidified after witnessing firsthand the environmental devastation wrought by the Hussein regime. They ditched and drained thousands of acres of Iraq's marshlands during the war," Haberthur said.
"When I returned to school in 2003, anxious to get on with my life, I discovered, while exploring the coastal areas of California, nature provided a peaceful and calming alternative to the stresses of my former military life," he said.
He felt that connection with nature could become a broader experience shared by fellow vets who may be struggling with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The program's initial conservation goals will be to remove invasive weeds and restore marsh conditions preferred by native wildlife at Dick Young Forest Preserve.
The 1.6-acre prairie pothole on the west side of the preserve will be restored to presettlement conditions, including the planting of native wetland species. On the east side of the preserve, hundreds of red oaks and bur oaks will be planted as part of an ongoing restoration effort by the forest preserve district.
"It is my hope, through this Toyota and Audubon fellowship, to court such individuals to illustrate the healing power of nature, and possibly inspire them to take advantage of their GI Bill benefits and return to school with an eye toward conservation," Haberthur said.
Haberthur hopes vets will volunteer for the project, although military service is not a prerequisite to participate.
To RSVP for the restoration workday, call (630) 649-1149. For more details on the TogetherGreen conservation fellowships, visit togethergreen.org.
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